We woke up to a pretty serious thunderstorm. It had been raining off and on all night with a few gusts of wind strong enough to rock François back and forth. Our neighbor had to get up and secure his bicycles and table to prevent them from blowing away.
The neighbors were Belgian and we spent some time talking to them last night. Neither spoke English fluently but they both could communicate to us. The first question was where we were from as it was clear to them we were not French. After we got that sorted out, we began to talk about traveling. The wife volunteered that this was her first time in this part of Belgium. Since Belgium is quite small we were a little surprised so Ton asked her where she was from, “Bruges”. We both laughed as Bruges is about 40 miles from where we are today and she was probably in her late 60’s. She thought about it for a minute and laughed too, saying she has been to Spain, France, and Indonesia but not to Westvleteren until today. She made me laugh again later when we were heading back to François, I told them “See you later”, she replied “See you later alligator”, giggled and followed it with “after a while crocodile”. I got a real kick out of that which she appreciated.
Today was the biggest day of our beer tour of Germany and Belgium. Tons’ favorite beer in the world is Duchesse de Bourgogne by Verhaeghe Brewery. Ton had been on their website and they only offered public tours on Friday and that would not work for us. We decided to send them an email explaining our problem and asking if they could accommodate us in any way. We were thrilled when they agreed to give us a private tour of the brewery today.
We arrived at the brewery and met our guide for the day Katrien. She sat us down and began the tour with a tasting of two of their beers that they only sell locally. After that we were off for a walk around the brewery. The brewery is family run for 4 generations and has survived two world wars. In the first world war the owner of the brewery refused to brew for the Germans so they confiscated all of his beer making equipment to melt down to make guns.
Their beer is all pre-sold so they are in the process of a significant expansion of the brewery to double their output. We were shown both the historical old buildings and the new modern buildings that will make up the expansion. Katrien did a great job explaining the process, and talking us thru each of the beers. It was a great time and we have a fresh bottle of Duchess de Bourgogne to drink before we leave.
We finished the day in an aire in the town of Kortrijk which is a major town in the region. We did not see as much of it as we wanted as it was raining pretty hard when we first arrived with occasional flashes of lightning. It finally calmed down enough for us to take a quick walk thru the town. It has two World Heritage Sites, their town belfry which along with all of the other belfries in Flanders are grouped as a world heritage site, and the Beguinage of Courtrai which is a well preserved 13th century womens community. It was run like a nunnery but the women did not take any religious vows. It was still active as a womens community until the 1960’s.